Most Italian desserts are purchased from the local pastry shop, but some are habitually baked at home, and each region has one or two that are its specialty. Ciambella is my native Romagna's traditional home-baked cake, and as with other home-nurtured traditions, every household has its own version. Some use anise along with, or in place of, the lemon peel; others add white wine to the batter. Each is as "authentic" as the next. The one below is the recipe my grandmother used and like all tastes one grows up with, it is the one I like best.
At home, there seems to be no time of the day not appropriate for having a slice of ciambella. My mother, at ninety-seven, still has it every morning with her caffelatte, a big cup of weak espresso diluted with hot milk. The old farmers' way is to dunk the cake at the end of the meal into a glass of sweet wine.
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar OR 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup lukewarm milk
- 2 eggs
- A heavy baking sheet
- Butter and flour for smearing and dusting the baking sheet.
Put the butter in a saucepan and gently melt it over medium-low heat. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, melted butter, cream of tartar or baking powder, a tiny pinch of salt, lemon zestl and the lukewarm milk. Add 1 whole egg and the white of the second egg. Add the yolk of the second egg, less 1 teaspoonful of it, which you will set aside for painting the ring later. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients, then turn them out onto a work surface and knead the mixture for a few minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shape the dough into a large sausage roll about 2 inches thick, and make it into a ring. Pinch the ends together to close the ring. Brush the surface with the teaspoonful of yolk you have set aside and 1 teaspoon water, and score with a few shallow diagonal cuts.
Smear the baking sheet with butter, sprinkle it with flour, then turn it over and give it a rap on the counter to shake off excess flour. Put the ring in its center and place the sheet in the upper level of the preheated oven. Bake for 35 minutes, it should rise to nearly double its original size. Transfer to a cooling rack. When cold, wrap in foil or store in a tin biscuit box, but do not refrigerate. It tastes best served the following day.
Recipe courtesy of
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
by Marcella Hazan
Alfred A. Knopf,
a division of Random House Inc.
Recipe reprinted by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved.
nutrition information per serving
351 calories; 12g total fat; 70mg cholesterol; 19mg sodium; 55g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 7g protein
These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.
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